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How do plants communicate?

How do plants communicate?

Our communication depends almost completely on words, the spoken word or the written version. Still, non-verbal communication was and is  an indispensable part of our communication, like gestures and scent. But do we rely on smell or has speech become more important? If we were to lose our speech, would we make different choices in our lives?

Where we primarily communicate with speech, plants communicate with chemicals. Take grass for example. The smell of a freshly mown lawn is not just a nice fragrance. When grass is mown, it produces substances to protect itself, originally against herbivores. It is a cry for help. The wonderful fragrance can almost be regarded as cold sweat.

Smoking is bad for you

the tobacco plant

The tobacco plant produces nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. The plant actually uses this nicotine as a defence against insect attacks. As soon as a caterpillar starts munching on the delicious tobacco plant, it produces a good dose of nicotine which is poisonous to the caterpillar. Only the tobacco hornworm is immune to this poison. However, the tobacco plant can identify this caterpillar by its saliva and instead of producing nicotine the plant produces a smell. This smell in turn attracts the natural enemy of the caterpillar, a predatory wasp. The wasp lays its eggs within the caterpillar, the wasp larvae kill the caterpillar and stop the damage being done to the plant.

The internet of trees

Trees compete with each other, but they help each other to survive by communicating with each other through underground networks. In the forest soil, hundreds if not thousands of fungi such as mycorrhiza grow. Scientists have discovered that these mycorrhizae form an underground network that connects trees and plants within an ecosystem. Through this system trees are able to share and distribute nutrients. The fungal threads transport water and nutrients as directed by the trees. In this way large trees are able to support smaller or weaker trees.

colour the Tobacco

The flowers of the tobacco plant are pink, yellow and green.
Can you replicate them?

Download the picture here.

colour the tree

In summer, most trees have green leaves.
What colour is your tree?

Download the picture here.